The Pittsburgh Pirates have purchased the contract of catcher Zane Chavez from Laredo of the American Association. The 30-year-old backstop has played pro ball since 2009, spending all but two of those seasons in independent ball. During the 2013-14 seasons he was a member of the Baltimore Orioles. He was originally drafted in the 19th round out of high school in 2005 by the Kansas City Royals, then went undrafted after four years of college.
Chavez spent the 2016 season with Laredo, where he caught former Pirates Ryan Beckman, Zack Dodson and Jeff Inman this season. His scouting report is that he is a strong defensive catcher, who has solid receiving skills and does a good job of blocking everything in the dirt. His game-calling skills were also praised. During his career, he has thrown out 32% of base runners trying to steal.
The bat is what has held him back to this point. He hit .260/.327/.388 in 70 games this season, and .281/.341/.396 in eight total seasons of pro ball. His best numbers came back in 2012 when he put up an .871 OPS in the American Association, and then an .829 OPS in 2013 in High-A ball. He topped out at Double-A with the Orioles.
Right now, the Pirates have seven catchers (including Chavez) who will play between the majors and Double-A, so Chavez will probably be used as a depth option between Altoona and Indianapolis, wherever the Pirates have a need. They are also thin at Bradenton after the trade of Taylor Gushue, so Chavez could see regular playing time at some point this season.
I got the chance to talk to him Wednesday night right after he signed and he’s very appreciative of the chance to get back into affiliated ball. He’s one of those baseball lifers, who they will have to cut the jersey off of as the saying goes. He was ready to go back to indy ball if nothing came through this winter. Chavez is a hard worker, so it’s always good to have a veteran presence like that to push the younger players, plus his strong defense will be helpful for the upper level pitchers.
We saw with the Pirates this year, and also back in 2011 when they used eight catchers, that you need to have solid catching depth. The Pirates also love strong defensive catchers, so while it would take a few things going wrong before he got a chance in Pittsburgh, Chavez knows it’s a good organization to be in right now for an opportunity.